|Ship Class||Illustrious-class Aircraft Carrier|
|Builder||Vickers-Armstrong, Barrow-in-Furness, Britain|
|Laid Down||27 Apr 1937|
|Launched||5 Apr 1939|
|Commissioned||25 May 1940|
|Decommissioned||1 Dec 1954|
|Displacement||23000 tons standard; 28661 tons full|
|Machinery||6 Admiralty 3-drum boilers, 3 Parsons geared turbines, 3 shafts|
|Power Output||110000 SHP|
|Range||10,700nm at 10 knots|
|Armament||8x2 QF 4.5in naval guns, 6x8 QF 2 pounder naval guns|
|Aircraft||15 Fulmar, 18 Swordfish|
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
ww2dbaseIllustrious was the lead ship in her class of aircraft carriers. The design was unique in the sense that the flight deck was armored, unlike many of her contemporaries outside her class; however, the added protection also limited the total number of aircraft she was capable of carrying. Her first assignment brought her to the Mediterranean Sea where her main mission was to launch aircraft which covered Malta convoys. In Nov 1940, she launched 21 torpedo bombers against the Italian fleet at Taranto, and achieved spectacular success after sinking one battleship and damaging two others. On 11 Jan 1941, she was attacked by German dive bombers while escorting a convoy, suffering 8 bomb hits. While repair work was being done at Malta, she was once again bombed. She sailed for Alexandria, Egypt for temporary repairs, and then sailed for the Norfolk Navy Yard in Virginia, United States for permanent repairs.
ww2dbaseThe repair work completed in May 1942. By which time, Japan had entered the war, threatening British possessions in Asia. The British Royal Navy, particularly, suffered a damaging defeat after the Japanese raids into the Indian Ocean in Mar-Apr 1942. As a result, Illustrious was dispatched to the Indian Ocean instead of returning to the Mediterranean. In May 1942, her aircraft provided cover for the British troops landing at Diego Suarez, Madagascar against French and French colonial troops.
ww2dbaseIn 1943, Illustrious returned to the Mediterranean Sea and joined Force H based in Gibraltar. In Sep 1943, her aircraft covered Allied troops in the Sicily invasion.
ww2dbaseIn 1944, Illustrious returned to the Eastern Fleet in the Indian Ocean for strikes against Japanese garrisons in the Southwest Pacific region. In 1945, after a period of rest and re-supply in Fremantle, Australia, she sailed north and joined Allied Task Force 57 to cover the Okinawa operation. Off Okinawa, she was hit and damaged by two Japanese special attack aircraft.
ww2dbaseAfter the war, Illustrious' role was reduced to a training and trials ship due to the heavy damage suffered during WW2. She was finally modernized between Jan and Aug 1948, and then served another six years before she was decommissioned. She was sold for scrap on 3 Nov 1954 and was broken up in 1956 as Faslane.
Last Major Revision: May 2007
Aircraft Carrier HMS Illustrious Interactive Map
HMS Illustrious Operational Timeline
|23 Jan 1940||British carrier HMS Illustrious left Malta for Alexandria, Egypt.|
|25 May 1940||Illustrious was commissioned into service.|
|30 Aug 1940||The brand-new armoured aircraft carrier, HMS Illustrious, and a powerful escort left Gibraltar. Although her air group was small (only 15 fighters and 18 bomber aircraft), Illustrious was one of the first warships to be fitted with air-warning radars which gave her a big advantage in fleet defence, as she could detect and track hostile aircraft and give her aircraft time to gain altitude. With both Illustrious and Eagle under his command, Admiral Cunningham could now take the offensive.|
|17 Sep 1940||British Swordfish torpedo bombers from carrier HMS Illustrious attacked the port of Benghazi, Libya, bombing shipping and laying mines. Italian destroyer Borea was sunk by torpedoes and destroyer Aquilone was damaged by a mine. Italian merchant ships Gloria Stella and Maria Eugenia were also sunk.|
|20 Dec 1940||15 British carrier aircraft from HMS Illustrious attacked an Italian convoy off Kerkennah islands, Tunisia between 0515 and 0615 hours, sinking two of the three ships in the convoy.|
|23 Jan 1941||British aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious, damaged by Stuka dive bombers on 10 Jan, completed temporary repairs and departed Malta for Alexandria, Egypt with destroyers HMS Jervis, HMS Juno, HMS Janus, and HMS Greyhound in escort.|
|25 Jan 1941||HMS Illustrious arrived at Alexandria, Egypt.|
|7 May 1942||British Fleet Air Arm Swordfish aircraft of HMS Illustrious spotted French submarine Le Héros off Courrier Bay, Madagascar at 0500 hours and attacked with depth charges; Le Héros attempted to evade by diving, but ultimately would be forced to surface and would be scuttled by her own crew to prevent capture.|
|19 Apr 1944||Admiral Sir James Somerville's new Eastern Fleet launched a devastating raid on the oil refinery at Sabang in Sumatra, Dutch East Indies with aircraft flown from the carriers HMS Illustrious and USS Saratoga.|
|1 Dec 1954||Illustrious was decommissioned from service.|
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James Forrestal, Secretary of the Navy, 23 Feb 1945